Pita Sharples should show us he’s a democrat and put his leadership to the vote

Any curiosity we might have harboured about Maori attitudes to a good old-fashioned democratic vote are reinforced today by Pita Sharples.

The Maori Party co-leader has written an opinion piece for the Herald (see here) to set out his reasons for staying on in the job, paying no heed to fellow co-leader Tariana Turia and MP Te Ururoa Flavell who reckon his used-by date has expired and it’s time he stepped down, rather than stay on past 2014.

A report by a Herald political hack (here) puts us in the picture.

Mr Flavell has challenged Dr Sharples for the leadership but Dr Sharples has refused to step aside and despite two hui to discuss it, the party is no closer to a resolution.

That’s the bit of the story that fascinates Alf.

He will come back to it.

But first, let’s hear how Sharples justifies himself in hanging on in there.

He has told the Herald he agrees with his supporters who have told him to stay on as leader to rebuild the party and provide stability after Turia leaves in 2014.

He has conceded the stand-off could be damaging for the party, which is still trying to recover after the split with Hone Harawira.

But –

“I believe I’m the best person to lead us into the next election. We’ve had so much disruption with Hone going, and people saying there should only be one Maori party, and now Tariana is leaving.

“So it is important someone who has the connections, who is known throughout the country and has given all my heart and integrity is there to try to rally them back to the party.” He said he was not angry at Mr Flavell for challenging, but wished he had waited a while longer.

All political party leaders would prefer their challengers waited a while longer.

But how long should Te Ururoa Flavell wait?

As the Herald points out, Sharples is refusing to commit to standing down at a future date after 2014, even if that would convince Flavell to stay his challenge.

He says this might weaken his leadership impact.

But he also said he regretted saying he hoped to lead the party until the day he died.

It struck Alf at the time he said it that this was an invitation to bop him heavily on the head with a mere, or run him through with a taiaha, or something.

But it turns out this was intended to be a light-hearted comment.

On the other hand, Sharples is very serious when it comes to self-importance.

He says of Flavell:

“I would love him to stay with me, so we could work together. He’s an awesome worker. But the leadership is a particular kind of thing at this stage, and I think I can reach out to a whole lot of sources that need to come back.”

Now we come to the bit of this saga that fascinates the member for Eketahuna North.

Flavell has challenged Sharples for the leadership.

Sharples won’t go (just as what-her-name across the Tasman is keen to hang on as Prime Minister of Australia).

Two hui have been held to discuss the matter, but the party is no closer to a resolution.

So what’s that all about?

When the Aussie PM sensed a challenge to her leadership, there was no stuffing around. She called a caucus meeting where any challenger could have had a tilt.

A simple vote would have decided the winner.

This is the democratic way.

Calling lots of hui, and sitting around yapping, and resolving nothing, presumably is the Maori way.

Or the Maori Party way.

There is a lesson in this for the rest of us.

The lesson explains Alf’s concerns about the co-governance arrangements that are mushrooming around the country.

These arrangements ware watering down our democracy.

And soon (if we are not careful) they will be the predominant form of governance. We will appoint our leaders, not elect them.

And once they are appointed, they will be bloody hard to be rid of.

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